Publication Date: September 2001
“As someone who has spent forty years in psychology with a long-standing interest in evolution, I’ll just assimilate Howard Bloom’s accomplishment and my amazement.”-DAVID SMILLIE, Visiting Professor of Zoology, Duke University
In this extraordinary follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Lucifer Principle, Howard Bloom-one of today’s preeminent thinkers-offers us a bold rewrite of the evolutionary saga. He shows how plants and animals (including humans) have evolved together as components of a worldwide learning machine. He describes the network of life on Earth as one that is, in fact, a “complex adaptive system,” a global brain in which each of us plays a sometimes conscious, sometimes unknowing role. and he reveals that the World Wide Web is just the latest step in the development of this brain. These are theories as important as they are radical. Informed by twenty years of interdisciplinary research, Bloom takes us on a spellbinding journey back to the big bang to let us see how its fires forged primordial sociality. As he brings us back via surprising routes, we see how our earliest bacterial ancestors built multitrillion-member research and development teams a full 3.5 billion years ago. We watch him unravel the previously unrecognized strands of interconnectedness woven by crowds of trilobites, hunting packs of dinosaurs, feathered flying lizards gathered in flocks, troops of baboons making communal decisions, and adventurous tribes of protohumans spreading across continents but still linked by primitive forms of information networking. We soon find ourselves reconsidering our place in the world. Along the way, Bloom offers us exhilarating insights into the strange tricks of body and mind that have organized a variety of life forms: spiny lobsters, which, during the Paleozoic age, participated in communal marching rituals; and bees, which, during the age of dinosaurs, conducted collective brainwork. This fascinating tour continues on to the sometimes brutal subculture wars that have spurred the growth of human civilization since the Stone Age. Bloom shows us how culture shapes our infant brains, immersing us in a matrix of truth and mass delusion that we think of as reality.
Global Brain is more than just a brilliantly original contribution to the ongoing debate on the inner workings of evolution. It is a “grand vision,” says the eminent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, a work that transforms our very view of who we are and why.
Why Counterculture Conservatives Should Read It:
In Global Brain Bloom continues to compare the story of humanity’s cultural evolution up from barbarism to modernity with the biological development of life and with the behaviors of the primitive organisms from which we evolved. He argues that conventional evolutionary theory — survival of the fittest — is only part of the story and fails to account for an awful lot of strange behavior. We also function as part of groups, and groups of organisms evolve too.
Bloom calls these groups of organisms that act together “superorganisms.” It applies in both the micro and the macro. (As Above, So Below, again.) One example of a superorganism is the human body. Bloom explains how our bodies function not as one individual but as a vast network of organisms working together. All throughout our bodies untold numbers of bacteria wage war on our behalf, assisting us in our digestion and many other essential tasks.
But it’s when Bloom’s concept applies to the macro superorganism that it becomes a useful too for us. The Superorganism model Bloom depicts in Global Brain applies to business, families, states, religious and political movements, and yes, countercultures. The same patterns of information gathering and processing that we find in bacteria colonies and honey bees we see in our bigger human creations of the viral spread of ideas and culture.
And the more we understand the patterns, the more we can manipulate them to our own benefit, survival, and further evolution.
Why Capitalist Wizards Should Read It:
I’ve found Bloom’s model of warring superorganisms a useful metaphor when trying to make sense of the chaos of my daily political media world. When we start thinking of the organizations and movements we’re apart of as superorganisms then we can analyze them through a new paradigm and identify the hidden sources of potential problems. If a superorganism fails to continue to evolve and thrive then the reason may be identical for why a sick organism dies: one infected organ can sabotage the whole body. In the same way, just one component of a business or organization needs to be failing for it to eventually bring down everyone.
Bloom identifies five essential components for every superorganism to have to survive. If the business or group endeavor you’re in is failing then a potential cause is because something’s amiss in one of these areas: “conformity enforcers, diversity generators, inner-judges, resource shifters, and intergroup tournaments.” Whether you’re managing a household, a corporation, or an online publication you’re going to need to have these elements managing information and making decisions.
Again we see the Masonic Principle, that through understanding and balancing conflicting elements we chart a new path to happiness and prosperity in a constantly changing world.
But in Bloom’s third book, Mother Nature strikes back, refusing to allow mankind a steady path of upward progress, intentionally upsetting the scale to provoke new somethings out of nothing. The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism appeared in November of 2009 as many continued to hunt for scapegoats as to who actually deserved blame for causing the 2008 economic crisis.